hope

Today It is Fulfilled in your Hearing

            Let me set the scene for our gospel reading today. It wasn’t that long ago that Jesus was standing at the river Jordan as John Baptised him. The heaven’s opened up and a voice from heaven says, “You are my son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22) Then filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus heads to the desert for forty days where he is tempted by the devil. Then Luke writes, “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4: 13) 

            After his forty days in the desert, Jesus returns to Galilee. We don’t know much about what Jesus was doing. But the first line of our reading says, “a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.” (Luke 4:14 – 15) The next stop on Jesus’ teaching tour is his hometown. He arrives at the synagogues on the sabbath day as he always did. The attendant hands Jesus the scroll from the book of Isaiah. Jesus unrolls the scroll and reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18 – 19) With these powerful words, Jesus rolls up the scroll, gives it back to the attendant and with the eyes of everyone in the room looking at him, Jesus says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearting.” (Luke 4:21)

            In many ways these are the first words we have from Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. The word about him had been spreading him around the community but we don’t really know what Jesus is teaching or saying to the crowds. Our reading today gives a glimpse as to why the word about Jesus is spreading. Jesus is telling people that there is hope. 

As I was reading from Luke, I started thinking that the passage Jesus quotes from Isaiah is much like his personal mission statement. Jesus says it so clearly as he looks at the crowd, “Today these words are coming true in your hearing.” That takes a deep sense of calling. The spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus and he knows what he is supposed to do: bring good news to the poor, release to captives, freedom to the oppressed, recovery of the sight to the blind and lastly to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. It’s a pretty big mission but we don’t get the sense that Jesus is worried about that. Indeed, as we read through the gospel we will find examples of Jesus living out this mission. 

            Here are some highlights 

·     He cures a man of leprosy which meant he could rejoin the community – no longer a captive (Luke 5) Indeed throughout the gospels Jesus heals people and restores them to community whether it is a hemorrhaging woman or someone who is deaf. 

·     Reminds us that best way to treat one another is to “Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31) or reminds us with the parable of the good Samaritan that we are to love our God with all that we have and our neighbour as ourselves (Luke 10)

·     He calms the storm on the sea (Luke 8)

·     He casts out demons bringing (Luke 8)

·     With five loaves and two fish he feeds a crowd that is hungry both for spiritual food and real food (Luke 9) 

·     Like the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus reminds us that he is the good shepherd who will always seek us out (Luke 15)

·     Jesus says, “Sell all that own and distribute it the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.” (Luke 18:22) He reminds us several times to give what we have to others – because where our treasure is there also is our heart

 

Woven through all these stories is that mission: good news for the poor, sight for the blind, release of captives and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour. 

When I googled mission statements and what makes a good mission statement, I found this: “The best nonprofit mission statements are easy to read and inspirational, and they let people know why the organization exists, whom it serves and how it serves them.” (https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-to-write-the-ultimate-nonprofit-mission-statement-2502262) The article also gave some tips for developing the mission statement none of which Jesus followed! He didn’t narrow his focus, or get feedback from many perspectives, hire a professional writer or take his time in formulating his mission statement. Jesus started doing. He has clarity of purpose that never changes. Jesus knows it’s going to take more people to complete this mission. So he passes it on first to the disciples who’ve passed it on to us. 

            The heart of our faith is an invitation to take up Jesus mission. Sometimes it seems daunting to me. Like we’ll never get to the place where everyone has what they need and all are welcomed into the community and surrounded with love. There are so many people in our community who are in need of better housing, of food, of healing, of hope, of love that sometimes I worry that I’m not sure where to start following or what part of Jesus’ mission to take up. 

            Then Will got sick, and to pass the time we watched the Harry Potter Movies – starting with the first one. As I watched the progression of Harry Potters life and thought about our scripture reading, I was reminded that we don’t have to do everything at once. First, we must choose a path. That’s what Harry did on his first day at Hogwarts. A little background for those of you who aren’t Harry Potter fans. Harry, has newly discovered that his is a wizard, that his parents died trying to protect him and now he is off of Hogwarts school for witchcraft and wizardry. For Harry, everything he is seeing and doing is new and unlike the life he lived with his Aunt and Uncle on Private Drive. Then he arrives at Hogwarts.

            Each student that attends Hogwarts is sorted into their school houses – there are four: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Harry’s heard that every evil wizard that ever was came out of Slytherin house including the one that killed his parents. When the sorting hat is dropped on Harry’s head, the magical hat has a hard time determining what house he should be in. “Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, “Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.” (Harry Potter and the Phillospher’s Stonepage 90 – 91) As Harry waits for the hat’s decision he is silently begging not to go into Slytherin. In that moment he was choosing a path which overtime became his mission. He was choosing to follow that path of good. 

            The life of faith starts with choosing that path of following Jesus. Once we are on the path it sets us on the course for completing Jesus’ mission. Here is the heart of the good news – the mission is daunting but we go there in the good company of all those who’ve chosen to follow in Jesus’ way. The mission is not only in our hands but in the collective hands of all those who follow Jesus and that my friends is millions of people! We go out into the world with our brothers and sisters in this community and communities around the world making a difference in the lives of others. Collectively we bring good news for the poor, release for the captives, sight for the blind, freedom to the oppressed and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour. So as we go about our work and our week, together let us find ways help others.  Amen.

Hope

Today the countdown to Christmas begins. It is busy season in so many ways for people. We come to the place ready for some quiet and renewal for our souls and for the first Sunday of Advent we have two challenging readings. At first glance it seems that our readings are have completely different messages. Our reading from Luke sounds ominous and scary.“‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:25 -28)

It doesn’t sound anything like Christmas. It doesn’t sound like hope and it is certainly different than our reading from Jeremiah which says, “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lordis our righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:15 – 16)The reading from Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, was written during the Babylonian captivity. Jeremiah is being held hostage. What reason does he have to hope? And yet, he knows that they will be saved by that righteous branch that will rise up and execute justice.

It seems to me that we need both of these messages today. Things our world can sometimes seem like the passage from Luke – a bit scary.  Whether it is ever increase levels of carbon monoxide which is destroying habitat and changing our weather or the divisive rhetoric that is makes up our political landscape or the fact that hate crimes are on the rise. 

Dr. David Lose says that the root of all our troubles is fear. “Think about it. From Pharaoh in the first chapter of Exodus (v. 8-10) to today’s despots, fear is the means by which we turn those who are in some fashion different from us into an enemy, a people against whom we should war. Fear causes us to horde, assuming we will never have enough and seeing those around us as competitors for scarce resources. Fear drives wedges of distrust into our communities that fracture solidarity and compassion. Fear causes us to define ourselves and those around us not by what we share but by what makes us different. …Fear, in short, drives us inward, hardens our hearts, darkens our vision, and stunts our imagination.” (http://www.davidlose.net/2018/11/advent-1-c-courage/)

So how do we live? How do we set that fear aside and live in hope? The bible shows us the way – angels and prophets alike tell us, “Do not be afraid.”  Jesus invites to live in hope. After the people faint from tear and foreboding of what is coming, Jesus says, “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up, and raise your heads, because your redemption is downing.” (Luke 21:28) 

There are signs of people standing up and raising their heads. On October 26that 1:30pm the service started at Bethel Church in The Hague and hasn’t stopped – not for one minute. All to protect an Armenian family whose asylum claim was denied. “The Tamrazyan family, including three children Hayarpi, Warduhi and Seyran, fled Armenia and have been living in the Netherlands since April 2010 while their claim for political asylum was being decided. But their case was rejected, and they've now been told to leave the country.” https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/29/europe/netherlands-church-service-deportation-intl/index.htmlThe congregation offered sanctuary to the family of five in order to protect the well-being of the children. Dutch law says that as long as the worship service is going on the police cannot not disrupt the service. “Theo Hettema, chairman of the General Council of Protestant Ministers in the Netherlands, told CNN the service will continue "as long as it's necessary.""We want to love God and our neighbor. And we thought that this was a clear opportunity to put the love for our neighbor into reality," he said. https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/29/europe/netherlands-church-service-deportation-intl/index.html

            Volunteers and clergy step in to lead the continuous service around the clock. Groups, choirs, and clergy from all across the Netherlands come to take their turn leading the service. One of the children, Hayarpi Tamrazyan who is 21 writes this of her faith and her experience of living in sanctuary: 

In these difficult times
Of darkness and grief
I lift up my head
And feel Your love in my heart.

In these difficult times
Of desperation, of anger
I lift up my hands
And praise You in my heart

In these difficult times
While I seem to be paralysed
I feel Your peace in my soul
And open my eyes to see Your grace…

No power and no devil
No grief and fear
Can separate You from me

I surrender myself
Let Your will be done
Your work is unimaginable
Your ways are in the light
How happily I walk with You
The Light of the world
The world… doomed and dead
But risen and renewed with You

My words fail
No words, no sentences
Can describe Your love
How thankful am I
How jubilant am I
While I am so tired
Hallelujah    Amen

Hayarpi

https://gedichtenvanhayarpi.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/in-these-difficult-times/

 And here we find hope and the promise of a world made in God’s image. For now, we live in the in between times. Between that which was – the angels proclaiming the joyful birth of the one called “Emmanuel – God with us” and for that which will be – God’s coming reign of peace. In this in between time, we take courage from those stories of hope, stories of people who refuse to give into fear as we work for a better world. How shall we live? We live with God’s promise in one hand and hope in the other and that makes all the difference. Amen

Risking Faith, Daring Hope

The theme for General Council this year is “Risking Faith, Daring Hope.” I think it is a theme we need for the church as we look to the future. For the past decade and maybe more, churches everywhere are stuck in that place of lament – I’ve heard them and so have you. The lament is that longing for that time long since passed. “I remember the church was full every Sunday and there were 200 hundred children in Sunday school.” The place of church in the community has shifted. We are no longer the institution leading the way – advising government leaders or setting the cultural norms. I don’t really notice the change because the church the shaped my path of faith  was a small church with a small Sunday school.  

            We need to move forward. The time to lament is over. Now it is the time for Risking Faith and Daring Hope. It is a time to be bold and have courage to live into a new way of being God’s people in the world. We have excellent examples in our gospel reading. Jairus, the synagogue leader and unnamed woman who dared to touch the hem of Jesus rob. Each in their own way risked their faith and dared to hope. 

            The story begins with Jairus. His daughter is sick and he is desperate to help her. He’s heard about Jesus, how teaches with authority and how he heals the sick. It says in the gospel that Jairus begged Jesus repeatedly, not a polite once but repeatedly saying, “"My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live."(Mark 5:23) Jairus was wealthy and probably could have looked for help elsewhere. He could have turned to the local doctor or healer. Instead he risked everything and came to Jesus begging him to help his daughter.

            Jesus sets out with Jairus but so does the large crowd. They are pressing in on Jesus from every side. In the crowd that day there was a woman who had been bleeding/ hemorrhaging for twelve years. She’d seen every doctor and every healer. She’d tried everything to make the bleeding stop. Nothing worked and she’d spent everything she had in search of a cure. Life was lonely for this woman. In Jesus’ day a woman who was bleeding was unclean. She was alone and isolated form the community. She couldn’t touch anyone for fear of making them unclean. For twelve long, lonely years she searched for hope, for a cure … for anything that would make it possible to be part of the community. 

            She’d heard about Jesus –whispers at first, then amazing stories of new life. She didn’t want much. She knew if she could just touch him her ordeal would be over. She dared, she hoped and without a thought about the taboo she joined the crowds pressing in on Jesus, reached out her hand and brushed the hem of his robe. She said to herself, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:29) And she was. The minute her hand touched his robe she could feel it stop and so could Jesus. Time stood still as Jesus turned and looked at the crowd and he said, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30) No one could believe what Jesus was saying because there were so many people gathered and pressing in on him. The disciples wondered why Jesus didn’t keep going to Jairus’ house. 

            With fear and trembling she came forward, fell down at Jesus feet and told him her story, her truth. Jesus could have been outraged that this woman made him unclean. Jesus could have ignored the feel of power draining out of him and kept on walking toward Jairus’ house. Instead he stopped. He drew attention to the woman and her plight. He listened to her whole truth – to her pain and to her fear. At the end of the story Jesus says to her, “"Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." (Mark 5:34)

            The next moment a messenger arrives with bad news for Jairus, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" (Mark 5:35) But Jesus, whose is the hope giver says to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe." (Mark 5:36) When Jesus arrives at Jairus’ house, he leaves the crowds behind and goes to the place where the girl is laid. Hetakes her by the hand and says, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" (Mark 5:41) And she does. 

            Three people healed. They took a risk and dared to hope. It is the kind of message we need as a church both locally, regionally and nationally. The world has changed and the church must change along with it. The time we spend longing for the good old glory days of the church and lamenting the loses are keeping us trapped in the fear. There is no future in fear. We can’t move forward when our eyes are focused in the rear-view mirror. The church can’t remain frozen in time. Now is the time of risking and hoping. A friend posted a beautiful picture of mountains with the words, “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.” 

            There are so many reasons to hope. Jesus message of compassion, caring, justice seeking, world changing love is what our world needs right now. Whether we are big or whether we are small, we are called to share the message of love today. Increasingly, there are people who are suffering from loneliness or isolation and or fear and our church communities cab provide a healing balm. We are called to following in Jesus way of caring and compassion. We are invited to reach out and give hope to the most vulnerable in our community – the people who find themselves lost, or on the margins or hurting. Our churches can be beacons of hope. 

Hope is what made it possible for Jairus to ask Jesus repeatedly to save his daughter. “Come touch my daughter that she might live.”  Hope is what made it possible for the woman in in Gospel reading to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus robe – even though she was taking a huge risk.

            As a church community we could have walked the path of fear. We could have closed our doors or sold our building to a developer. Instead we chose hope and risk. We hoped to help people, we hoped for a future, we hoped to find new ways to follow Jesus and we took risk. We dreamed big and we started something new. Would you believe that it was almost four years since we voted on the new vision to set up Cochrane Centre? Look at what risk and hope have accomplished here. Grounded in our faith, we dared to hope for a new way of being church. 

It hasn’t been easy. The path hasn’t always been clear. There have been set backs. We spent longer than we expected “on the road” and when we came home we needed to get used to new space and new ways of doing church. Every time, I’m tempted to believe that price was too high and the challenges were and are too many, I remind myself – 15 people have homes because dared to hope, and risked living out our faith in a new way.  For us locally the journey continues as we reimagine the ways we can be God’s people at work in our community sharing Jesus’ lifesaving, life giving message of hope. 

As we continue risking faith and daring hope, we don’t do this alone, God is with us. As it says in Lamentations:

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope: 

The steadfast love of the Lordnever ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; (Lamentations 3:21 – 23)
            God is not finished with us yet! Let us risk faith and dare to hope trusting that God is with us each step of the way. Amen. 

 

Voice of Hope

Our scripture reading today is at once challenging, disheartening and a gentle reminder of what is really important. Jesus and the disciples are in the region of Tyre and Sidon. They are not on home turf. They are in the land of the gentiles AKA – those who are not descendants of Abraham. Not long after arriving, a woman approaches Jesus and the disciples. She cries out“Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” (Matthew 15:22) But no one paid attention to her. Jesus kept walking with the disciples following behind him. She is after all a Canaanite woman, a gentile – there was no need to listen to her. But she will not be ignored. Again, she says “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” (Matthew 15:22) Still nothing.

She will not be ignored or pushed aside. Her daughter’s life is one the line. She knows about Jesus and what he can do. Again, she says, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” (Matthew 15:22) The disciples are tired of this nagging and say to Jesus, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” Jesus knew his mission and it was not for her kind. Jesus says to her “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  And he keeps going. We might as well just say it like it is. Jesus is worse than rude. He dismisses her because of her race and keeps walking.

But she will not be ignored or pushed aside or told that she and her daughter’s life are of no account. She puts herself in Jesus path and kneels at before him saying, “Lord help me.” (Matthew 15:25) And still Jesus does nothing. Can you believe it? Our Jesus who heals. Our Jesus who is compassionate. Our Jesus who loves us back to life refuses to help this woman whose daughter is being tormented by demons simply because she is from the wrong place. And then it does not get better as the story progresses. He says, her, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26) He calls her a dog.

Most people would have walked away. First ignored, then dismissed and then insulted. But not this woman. She says “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15:27) And finally Jesus see her – not where she is from – but her. A mother crying, begging for her daughter’s life to be restored. Jesus says, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” (Matthew 15:28) And in that moment her daughter is healed and Jesus mission and ministry changed.

I’ve read and preached on this story countless times. I’ve reminded myself that because of this woman’s persistence Jesus ministry changes – which it does. Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “through the Canaanite woman’s faith [Jesus] learns that God’s purpose for him is bigger than he had imagined and there is enough of him to go around. (Seeds of Heaven. p. 63)

Somehow this week I hear this story differently. I remember Jesus pushing the Canaanite woman aside and I think of the riots in Charlottesville. I watch as Jesus dismisses her and I think of the people who show up at protests using the hate filled slogans of KKK and Neo-Nazis. And when Jesus called her a dog and I am reminded of the divisions that are occurring in our own country and around the world. I think of the all the people who’ve been pushed aside because arbitrary lines have been drawn that say “you are in and you are out.” This gospel reading reminds me that racism isn’t new. It’s an enduring problem.

Dr. David Lose in his column In the Meantime writes “It’s way, way too easy for us to assume that God is on our side, looks like us, favors our positions, and endorses our views. Call it sinful, call it human, but let’s be honest: it’s really, really easy for us to imagine God is just like us. …And just as the Canaanite woman teaches Jesus that God’s mission and vision and compassion and mercy are bigger than what he may have initially imagined, so also might the Canaanite woman teach us the same at a time when synagogues are threatened, mosques are being fire-bombed, and neo-Nazis and white supremacists march the streets: every time you draw a line between who’s in and who’s out, you will find the God made manifest in Jesus on the other side. (Dr. David Lose, In the Meantime August 15th, 2017)

The good news, is that Jesus is changed by his meeting with the Canaanite Woman. Our Gospel reading, shows us a path that brings hope. A path to wholeness for communities. The Canaanite woman teaches Jesus that his mission is to share God’s love with everyone. No exceptions. The same is true today for us today.

As we watch the news and wonder what kind of world our children will grow up in. Pay attention to the signs of hope – for the signs that our world is changing for the better. There all the people who showed up to say no to racism, violence and hatred. The ministers, clergy, pastors, rabbis and leaders of many faith communities who formed a line of protection at the riots in Charlottesville. The people of Boston who showed up in droves to protest against the right wing free speech rally and whose voices drowned out the ones spreading hatred. The people of Vancouver who showed up to protest the anti-immigration protest and whose words of welcome were the only ones that could be heard. 

This is where hope is found. The everyday people like you and me who gather and use their voices to stand up for a world where all are welcome. As we head into the new week, let our voices be the voices of hope. Let the message of the Canaanite woman who showed Jesus the way of love, challenge us to be hope at work in our community. Let us pray and work for a day when our world will reflect that hope in every place. By God’s grace may it be so. Amen.